When I first saw the iPad, I wondered what use I would have for such an item. Was this a novelty item? Was it for business, games or just another reading device like the Nook? I originally wrote it off as just another overpriced toy with no real value for music, but boy, was I ever wrong! When I started looking into the musical uses of the iPad, I had a few apps from which to choose. It was apps like Jordan Rudess’ Sample Wiz and Geo Synthesizer that made me start looking into using the iPad as a musical tool, but as I started to delve into the prospects of what was available, I became convinced that the iPad was full of potential for making music. I bought an iPad 2 back in early 2011. I started off with the usual suspects, Garageband, Geo, Sample Wiz, etc. I began to research more and more apps and realize there was a lot more going on than I had anticipated. I also had bought into the market at the time where the music apps started to gain footing in being taken more seriously. The quality and quantity became much better, with offerings from manufacturers of actual physical hardware making app versions of real synths and app developers taking the familiar and putting their personal twist on it to make it something refreshing and new.
As the market for music apps grew in every gategory, the need to harness their abilities was also growing. Consumers were needing audio interfaces, MIDI interfaces, controllers, and storage. On the software side, The ability to link up and sync up apps was in high demand. This is where Audiobus came into play.
Audiobus is an audio utility app that allows the user to link up instrument apps, effects apps and recording apps so that the user can produce music on an iPad as they would on a computer. It bacame a must-have app if you planned to use your iPad to record full on productions. Many app developers saw the potential for its use and updated their apps to be compatible with Audiobus. Audiobus has gained so much visibility, even Apple saw the light and developed their own version, called Inter-App-Audio. IAA, as it’s come to be known, performs a similar function as Audiobus, with a few differences that set it apart.
Currently, both Audiobus and IAA have become so popular in use with audio apps, that it seems to almost be a mandatory feature in most builds and updates. The list seems to grow exponetially all the time. If it originally didn’t have compatibility, it was updated soon after release, while subsequent app releases had it as a feature right out of the gate.
More recently, Audio Units, or AU has been added to the list of features. While it’s still pretty new, it seems to be taking a strong hold rather quickly, adding yet another source of flexibility for the iPad musician. As a result, app developer Kymatica released AUM, a mixer that works with combining Audiobus, IAA and AU compatible apps to create a live perfomance workflow.
Even though Audiobus and IAA seem to have become commonplace in most apps upon release, there are some apps that have been made without these features included in their release. This is where things get interesting, and this is where my idea from which this article comes.
Recently, I had looked into an app that is an all-inclusive music production suite by a developer who had previously brought us a control surface app that has a pretty decent reputation. Upon first glance, it seems to be of good quality, allowing the user to produce drum and synth patterns, thus creating electronic music from one source. I was planning to review said app, but upon perusing the feature set, I noticed one significant ommission, no mention of Audiobus/IAA compatibility. Am I willing to part ways with my hard earned cash for an app I probably won’t use much past the review? Nope! “What was the reason for this?” you may be asking. It’s not compatible with my workflow, simple as that. This pretty much brought my commitment to purchase the app to a complete halt. Sure, to the average iPad user who maybe dabbles in music, that might be okay, but the more advanced user, it’s a problem. After posting the article to my blog and then promoting it, the first comment to come in basically asked,”What? No Audiobus/IAA compatibility?” This got me thinking, IS Audiobus/IAA compatibility a make-or-break feature?
Soon after reading the comments, I had posted a survey to the iPad Musicians Facebook page, asking the question, “When considering the purchase of a new audio app, how important is the Audiobus/IAA/AU compatibility feature?” With about 185 people contributing to the survey, over half deemed the feature important when considering an app. On a scale of 1-5(5 being most important, 1 being the least important), 45% gave a 5 rating for all three, with Audiobus being considered the most desirable. This lead me to the conclusion that if an audio app is to be taken seriously, Audiobus/IAA/AU should be present.
Is that a make-or-break deal for any audio app? I would have to say no. While it is a very desirable feature, especially when one is using these apps for live use and real time manipulation of a performance, it’s not entirely necessary for making music. There are other ways to transfer audio performances into a DAW for production. Many of the apps have the ability to transfer audio via Audioshare, Dropbox and Audiocopy. Some apps have the ability to transfer audio data via iTunes and some still can email your data to yourself. While not as conducive to your workflow as, say, Audiobus, it still works and it allows you to get your audio data to its destination.
While I’ve had the opportunity to beta test a couple apps, I’ve no development experience. I really don’t know the developer’s side of the story, so I cannot comment on what the difficulty level would be for adding this functionality to an app. If a developer reads this article, please take some time to inform me of what is necessary to add Audiobus/IAA/AU compatibility to an audio app. Perhaps it might shed some light as to why a developer doesn’t include that in the feature set. That said, I offer developers a request. I believe I can speak on the behalf of many of the active music makers that choose iOS as their platform of choice in saying: Please consider adding the compatibility of Audiobus/IAA/AU into your app. It helps make a more efficient workflow and it pushes the envelope in creativity.
I hope I have covered this topic well enough to be taken seriously, and as always, feel free to comment and let me know if I have missed anything or if the reader can shed some light upon part(s) of the topic I may have missed.